Effectively Naming Software Thingies

This is probably the most important guideline.

Names should not make us raise questions about the meaning of objects and values.

Coding is hard enough, without trying to understand the meaning behind a weird function name or remember the contents of some list.

 For a more detailed discussion, please look at Robert Martin’s “Clean Code”.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on UnsplashSelect Intent Revealing Names.

Code as explicit as possible.

If the variable stores the last updated record, name it lastUpdatedRecord, not just record, or even lastRecord (The last record in a file??).

Make Meaningful distinctions.

Don’t distinguish between similar names by misspelling or suffixing with numbers and noise words, just to satisfy the compiler.

This is Non-informative.

For example, ProductInfo vs ProductData What kind of info the ProductInfo has that the ProductData doesn't.

Add meaningful context .

The scope of the thing you are naming should add meaningful context.

The variable state is not meaningful in itself.

Put it in a well named class, e.



state or engine.

state, and others will automatically understand your intention.

 The least favorable but sometimes appropriate way to add context is to prefix or suffix the name of the variable – addressState.

 Every part of the call chain should add only new context.

This way you can shorten your names and keep them meaningful enough.

Use Solution Domain Names.

Your code will be read by programmers, then you can and should use computer science terms (jobQueue), pattern names (AccountVisitor), algorithm names, math terms, and so on.

Use Problem Domain Names.

If the thing is more related to the problem domain, then it probably has an appropriate name in the domain.

It will help you to familiarize more with the domain and have a common language with the clients.

It has the added benefit of decoupling the domain concepts from the specific solution.

// instead ofString state;String streetAddress;Int houseNumber;// useAddress adressDon’t Abbreviate.

Say getWindow not getWin.

ConceptsNaming objects is about abstracting and encapsulating behavior within a concept.

Pick One Word per Abstract Concept and stick with it.

Soon enough you and your team will have a common language and will know what to expect from certain names.

What’s the difference between fetch and retrieve?.pick and use only one.

However, Don’t Pun and use the same word for different things.

Suppose you have two classes.

One class will create and add a new user object using anadd() method.

The second class has a method that inserts a parameter into a collection.

The “One Word per Concept” rule can mislead you to name the two methods add(), when they actually have different semantics.

 Another example for a name being used for different purposes is the God-Variable temp, tmp, tmp1 .

Avoid Mental Mapping.

This is VERY important!.Don’t make your readers mentally translate names to something else they know.

You should even name loop counters to make it simpler.

Don’t be a Smart Programmer who shows off his mental juggling abilities.

Be a Professional Programmer that understands that Clarity is King.

Use Conventions for Common Operations.

For example, how should I get the Id here?worker.

getId() candidate.



get()supervisor()Avoid Mental Mapping.

This is VERY important!.Don’t make your readers mentally translate a name name to another they might know and better understand.

You should even name loop counters to make it simpler.

Don’t be a Smart Programmer who shows off his mental juggling abilities.

Be a Professional Programmer that understands that Clarity is King.

Use opposites precisely.

If you can open(), you should be able to close(); After you start() you should stop()Noise and BoilerplateThe name should be as clean and short as possible.

Noise makes the reader read more without any added benefit except confusion.

Don’t Make Noise.

What do you mean by ProductInfo?.How is it different from ProductData?.Suffixes like that are just noise.

Compiler candy.

They don’t add distinct meaning.

Some noise prefixes like 'the', 'a'/'an', 'all' can be used to make a meaningful distinction, in which case they are not considered as noise.

Avoid Comments.

A good name is a thousand times better than a comment.

Leave Legacy Practices Behind.

Don’t be a cave person, instead use a modern IDE with color coding, docs and reference finding tools.

 Say no to Hungarian notation.

The type in the name will lead to misinformation in the next refactor and quick type change.

 Some will argue to not prefix members with ‘m_’ or just ‘_’.

Personally I like ‘_’ with the added distinction from regular variables and parameters, for the low price of one character.

We don’t have to agree on everything…Beware of ‘I’ for Interface Trap.

This may help and be the convention in some platforms.

Just don’t slap an ‘I’ in front of a concrete class to get an interface.

IDollar is not a better name than Currency.

Carlo Pescio elaborates on that point and on the point of OOP vs Procedural.

Don’t Add Gratuitous Context — For example, don’t use abbreviated project name as prefix e.



This works against your IDE (what happens to auto-completion when you start searching for a method named getSomethingImportant()?) and unusable in another project.

DisinformationSometimes caused intentionally from the start, and sometimes during normal life-cycle of development and refactoring.

Either way…Avoid Related Words and abbreviations that are too related to other meanings than the one we meantAvoid Using Type in the Name, e.



someday someone will change the type to hashSet, and the name will lose its meaning.

Avoid Small Differences between long names, for example, using o or l as variable names, they are too similar to 0 and I.

Avoid Comments.


code changes, and nobody updates the comments.

Human Reader“Programs are meant to be read by humans and only incidentally for computers to execute” — Donald KnuthPhoto by Tim Gouw on UnsplashThe Length of the Name should be as long as necessary to convey the meaning accurately, however it should be as short as possible to increase readability.

Favor Readability over brevity — CanScrollHorizontally is better than ScrollableX.

Make the code readable like Paragraphs and Sentences and use grammar as correctly as possible.

Pronounceable Names — you must be able to discuss about it without sounding like an idiot.




Don’t be Cute or Clever — funny names remain understandable only as long as you and the people who share the joke stay on the project.

Avoid Encoding and Emoji’s.

(I should not even mention this)Use Searchable Names in order to help the IDE help you, for example, use constants for magic string and numbers.

Avoid Similar Sounding Names.

Avoid Easily Misspelled Names.

ConclusionGood names help make better code.

When we build large systems, most of the time we read.

And we all enjoy a well written story.

Make your code read like a story.

Did I miss something?.Do you want to let me know what you think?.Please, do….

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